History traces local railroad

March 15, 1992|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Mr. Rasmussen is a librarian at The Sun.

THE STORY OF THE NORTHERN CENTRAL RAILWAY.

Robert L. Gunnarsson.

Greenberg Publishing.

189 pages. $39.95. Marylanders used to thinking that the B&O Railroad was the only major railroad construction project during the 1820s in the state have forgotten the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad. The B&S became the Northern Central Railway and finally wound up as a far-flung line of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, linking Baltimore with Sodus Point on Lake Ontario.

Today, part of the railroad is on the verge of becoming the new Central Light Rail line, which will open this spring and eventually link Hunt Valley with Glen Burnie.

Founded in 1829, the B&S endured battles with politicians, the B&O and the topography as it made its way northward through the Jones Falls Valley to the coal fields of Pennsylvania.

Robert Gunnarsson has filled a void in local history with the publication of his history of the Northern Central. A colorful and historic railroad, the Northern Central played an important part in the late-19th century development of such suburban communities north of the city as Mount Washington, Ruxton, Riderwood and Lutherville. It eventually transformed them from summer communities into year-round havens for the affluent.

These weren't quite as glitzy as the Pennsylvania Railroad's Main Line communities westward from Philadelphia, but the Northern Central nonetheless managed to haul aboard its reddish commuter cars several generations of movers and shakers who entered the city from Parkton southward.

Mr. Gunnarsson has provided many photographs of stations, trains and towns along the right-of-way for the rail fan and general reader. There are great shots of roaring Pennsy flyers under steam bound for Chicago, St. Louis or Detroit, and peddler freights drifting through Woodberry on a warm summer's afternoon.

As Christopher Morley chronicled the comings and goings of the Paoli Local on the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Parkton Local was immortalized by former Sunday Sun writer Ralph Reppert, who characterized the morning schedule this way: "The first train was for the workers, the second for the clerkers and the third for the shirkers."

Such was the effect the old railroad had on folks around here. I am sure Mr. Gunnarsson's book will do the same.

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